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The Parent’s Ultimate Guide to Sleepovers

Remember when you and your best friend alternated weekend slumber parties in grade school? Now it’s your kid’s turn! There are several things to keep in mind as you organize and execute the sleepover; hopefully, as you read along, you’ll see that this special night in your child’s life can be exciting for you both!

The Invitations

First, you’ll need to find out who your child wants to invite, and then compare the list to how many children you think you can (sanely and safely) maintain in a single evening. Choose participants wisely–you may want to aim for an even number, or perhaps try a one-on-one.

Once you’ve selected potential playmates, you can start making the invitations! Bond! Print T-Rex cutouts or ballerina shoe shapes to color together. Let your child pass them out or mail or distribute them yourself, but make sure all the information is clearly legible. Include you and your child’s names, the event (“Jamie’s First Sleepover!” or “Byron’s Birthday Bash!”), the date (Saturdays are prime), the start and pick-up time, your address, your phone number, and the RSVP date. Include directions on the back if you like, and leave a couple weeks for the RSVP.

When the parents or guardians call to RSVP, get their contact information. Also make sure you know if their child has any food allergies, disabilities, or behaviors to anticipate. Ask if there are rules for the child, like ‘no laptops’, a certain bedtime, or  movie rating (obviously R is out of the question). Parents should bring their children’s pajamas, a fresh change of clothing, a toothbrush, and a sleeping bag.

Because not everyone invited will attend, it’s okay to reach out with extra invitations. Make your child feel good about who can come!


Before the sleepover, be prepared with some extra bedding, plastic plates, cups, and cutlery, appropriate films, and lots of foods that everyone can enjoy.

From creampuffs to grapes, from pizza to tater tots, finding kid-friendly foods shouldn’t be too hard. Have fruit or candy bowls accessible so the kids have options. No matter what the food, preparation is crucial; you won’t want to find out the first half hour into the party that seven 8-year-old boys can eat you out of house and home and then have to rush out, leaving them with each other, squirt guns, a little sister, and a frightened spouse. Better to be over than under prepared on this one.

Recruit your child’s help in decorating and arranging where the sleeping will take place: put pink balloons on the mailbox and Disney princess decor in the den, or Harry Potter theme the evening!

Talking to Parents

When the big day arrives, make sure you’ve not only bought the supplies you need, but that you’ve also kid-proofed your house (depending on the age of the invitees, you may need to do so extensively); you don’t want anything to go missing or to break! When the children start arriving, be prepared for parental questions. Know how long each kid can stay, who’ll be picking up the kids, whether they can arrive by the pick-up time, and where/when to drop them off if that’s the case.

Ground Rules

Before the fun, lay down ground rules with the kids–no running in the house, what rooms they can be in, a non-negotiable bedtime, and probably a solid reminder of the Golden Rule. Then take drink requests (soda pop or Kool-Aid!), and get the party started! Have board games, dolls and toys, gaming systems, and lots of films on hand. Lay out some pens and paper in case they want to play MASH or feel artistic.  Suggest a blanket fort made from the extra bedding! The slumber party should be fun for everyone. Chances are, the larger the sleepover, the more likely it is that there’ll be at least one kid who feels left out or disinterested. See what you can do to subtly integrate them into the fun.

Your Presence

Be available, but don’t linger; check in with the kids every now and then, and stay on the periphery. Make sure the kids have everything they need, but aren’t causing trouble or putting anyone down. Don’t be afraid to call a parent (but threaten first so the kid has due notice) if necessary. If a child can’t stay all night, make sure everyone says a courteous goodbye so that the child will leave on good terms. If a child gets really homesick, it’s best to let them leave earlier rather than to make them stick it out.


When winding down the evening, parents may want their children to bathe. If so, the child should be equipped with a towel and toiletries. Have nightlights in the halls and sleeping area. Tell the kids how they can find you if there’s an emergency.

When it’s bedtime, it’s bedtime. The children will likely have exhausted themselves with ping-pong or watching Frozen or playing flashlight tag or singing karaoke or doing beauty makeovers or telling scary stories, but in case they’re on that last crest of a sugar high, make sure their bedding is in place. Don’t let them stay up past bedtime, and check in periodically once they’re set for bed to be sure they aren’t disobeying. It sets a good example to stick to your word.

The Next Morning

In the morning, try to have lots of breakfast options for the kids: a few types of cereal, milk, bacon, eggs, waffles or pancakes—see what they want! They can change while you cook and set up. Parents will likely be coming around by the time you’re cleaning up the breakfast mess, so try to be timely, and make sure each child is ready and accounted for when the time comes. If you have to drop any kids off, do so after everyone who’s going to be picked up has been picked up. Let the parents know about their child’s evening festivities—but let the kids fill in all the fun details!


Talk to your child afterwards. This is a big social experience for your youngster. Planning (or not planning) to have another sleepover is gaged on how this slumber party went. See what your child did and didn’t like. It helps you to get to know them better, provides a safe space for you and your child, and builds trust towards social situations in the future.

There! You survived hosting your child’s first slumber party! Other parents may be hosting them from now on, but you’ve had a chance to figure out your comfort level with hosting excited, screaming kids for half a day–so, there. Relax! It’s over. And you and your child are both better for it. Now: about next weekend…

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